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Burmese monks draft law to ban Buddhist women marrying Muslim men

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 14 Jun 2013 07:44 GMT
Author: Thomson Reuters Foundation Correspondent
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A Muslim religious leader speaks to Muslims seeking shelter at a monastery in Lashio township, on May 31, 2013. Hundreds of Muslim families were sheltered in a heavily-guarded Buddhist monastery after two days of violence in the northern Myanmar city of Lashio left Muslim properties in ruins and raised alarm over a widening religious conflict. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
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BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Two hundred senior Buddhist monks who have gathered in Yangon for a two-day convention have started drafting a law that would restrict Buddhist women marrying Muslim men, The Irrawaddy reported.

Highly revered in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, the monks announced on the first day of the meeting on Thursday that “preventing interfaith marriage would help improve inter-communal relations” in Myanmar, and proceeded to discuss a 15-page draft law that would introduce the restriction, the Burmese news outlet said.

Wirathu, a monk best known for his fiery anti-Muslim rhetoric and a leader of the controversial 969 campaign that calls for a boycott of Muslim-run businesses, praised the latest effort.

“I have dreamed of this law for a long time. It is important to have this law to protect our Buddhist women’s freedom,” The Irrawaddy quoted him as saying.

According to The Irrawaddy, the law would require any Buddhist woman seeking to marry a Muslim man to first gain permission from her parents and local government officials, and any Muslim man who marries a Buddhist woman to convert to Buddhism.

Those who do not follow these rules could face up to 10 years in prison and have their property confiscated, it said, adding that the monks plan to collect signatures to pressure Parliament to adopt the law.

Myanmar, where Muslims make up about 5 percent of the 60 million people, has struggled with unrest since June last year when fighting between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya erupted in western Rakhine state.

Buddhist monks - often held up as icons of democracy in Myanmar - have played a central role in anti-Muslim unrest over the past decade.

Reuters’ investigations in two violence-hit areas showed nationalists and monks incited the violence, which was abetted at times by local security forces.

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